3/12/2014 5:56 P.M. ET
Marte released as Tigers make first spring cuts
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers made their first round of Spring Training roster cuts Wednesday morning, sending out eight players and unconditionally releasing right-hander Luis Marte.
Marte hasn't pitched for the Tigers since 2012, when he posted a 2.82 ERA in 22 1/3 innings over 13 appearances. The 27-year-old righty pitched in three games for Triple-A Toledo last year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. Marte was designated for assignment when the Tigers signed outfielder Rajai Davis this offseason.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said the decision to release Marte, rather than reassign him, was simply a product of the numbers game.
"He wasn't going to make the big league club, and it was a situation where there really wasn't a spot in Triple-A for him," Ausmus said. "You never want to tell someone that you're releasing them, but the truth is it's better now than later, [because] you have an opportunity to catch on with somebody else.
"He's a great kid, a classy kid. Worked hard. It just wasn't going to work here. Hopefully he can catch on in another organization."
Left-hander Casey Crosby and right-hander Melvin Mercedes were optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while right-hander Jose Valdez and catcher Ramon Cabrera were optioned to Double-A Erie. Right-hander Drew VerHagen, lefties Duane Below and Robbie Ray and catcher James McCann were reassigned to Detroit's Minor League camp.
Ausmus said he and pitching coach Jeff Jones were impressed by VerHagen's mound presence and ability, but the 23-year-old could use more experience. The same could be said for Ray, acquired in the deal that sent Doug Fister to Washington, but Ausmus added that the 22-year-old lefty also needs to refine his secondary offerings before he's Major League-ready.
"I was actually impressed with Robbie," Ausmus said. "He's one of the few guys who has -- we've talked about kind of a swing-and-miss fastball. It plays up a couple miles per hour on the radar gun. But I think it's important for him to not only go down and gain experience, but work on his secondary pitches -- specifically the breaking ball, and see if we can tighten that up. But I certainly liked how he pitched.
"He's definitely close. A lot of it's going to depend on the secondary pitches. If he commands his secondary pitches, he's going to be a Major League pitcher, because his fastball plays in the Major Leagues right now."
After their first wave of spring roster moves, the Tigers have 46 players remaining in Major League camp.
Fastball command coming around for Anibal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Aside from one fastball left over the middle of the plate, Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez was virtually flawless in Wednesday's 7-7 tie with the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Sanchez gave up three hits and struck out three batters over four innings, and the only notable blemish came on his second pitch of the third, which Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli deposited over the center-field fence.
Other than that, Sanchez said he felt good about his third start of the spring, and he was pleased with the way he commanded his fastball. Sanchez threw 43 of his 60 pitches for strikes on the day.
"Everything's working good, especially when I'm able to throw my fastball for a strike," Sanchez said. "My other pitches work good in the same delivery, and it helps me a lot."
"Pretty standard stuff. Good fastball, good offspeed, threw a lot of fastballs today just to work on it and make sure he's got good command of that," added Tigers catcher Alex Avila. "Pretty standard stuff from him. He's about as consistent, as far as stuff-wise, as it gets."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus agreed that Sanchez's fastball had a little extra zip on it Wednesday, though he didn't ask to see how it registered on the radar gun. Sanchez said the key was his return to a comfortable delivery, something he worked on the past few days after feeling a little uncomfortable while allowing two runs on four hits in three innings against the Yankees on Friday.
"I don't know what I did the last time, but I did not feel good the next day," Sanchez said. "Today, I just worked to feel smooth and get my command again."
Iglesias progressing, but status still uncertain
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged Wednesday morning that Jose Iglesias is "getting close" to the point where he might not be ready for Opening Day due to soreness in his shins.
Ausmus said the adjustment in Iglesias' orthotics has seemed to help the shortstop, who's dealing with a stress reaction that causes pain in the middle of his shin. Iglesias fielded grounders, took batting practice and jogged Tuesday, reporting back to Detroit's coaches that it was a good day.
Iglesias went through a similar workout Wednesday back at Tigertown. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Iglesias could play in a game this weekend, but Ausmus wasn't quite so willing to set a firm date for his shortstop's return to the field.
"I guess he could be. It depends on how he feels," Ausmus said. "We're really waiting for this pain to subside enough so that he can get in the lineup."
Iglesias hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game in almost two weeks, and he's only logged four plate appearances this spring. Ausmus said he'd ideally like to see Iglesias get about 50 at-bats before the season begins. The Tigers could accelerate Iglesias' progress by playing him in Minor League games, where he could use the more flexible rules to bat leadoff in five straight innings, for example.
Ausmus noted that Iglesias' "low-maintenance approach" means he might not require as many preseason at-bats as some other players, but he still needs to get used to seeing pitches, recognizing breaking balls and so on.
"Four [at-bats] is definitely not enough," Ausmus said.
Iglesias will also need to get used to working with a new double-play partner, second baseman Ian Kinsler.
"The sooner Iglesias is able to play, the better it is not just for him, but the team in general. Part of that is he and Ian can work together, because that does take a little bit of time," Ausmus said. "I'm not saying it takes a season, but at this point I would think that they're going to be learning each other into the season, even if he started playing today.
• Ausmus said shortstop Eugenio Suarez has impressed the Tigers so far this spring. A career .277/.363/.404 hitter in the Minors, Suarez has gone 5-for-16 with a double and two RBIs in 10 Grapefruit League games.
"He's pretty young, but he carries himself pretty well defensively in the field. He doesn't look like he's rattled or intimidated by Major League camp or Major League hitters when he's playing defense," Ausmus said. "Obviously, a kid like that you want to get more at-bats and more innings, but he's played well. In that regard, he's opened some eyes in a situation where we don't know -- if Iglesias isn't back, we have to have some type of answer at shortstop."
• Infielder Hernan Perez has seen time at both second base and shortstop this spring, but he would be an obvious candidate to make the roster if Iglesias spends any time on the disabled list.
"From Day 1, I told him to make sure he was taking some ground balls at short," Ausmus said. "We weren't expecting anything, injury-wise, from Iglesias, but if something happened to him for an extended period of time, we'd need a shortstop. I think he could play either spot. He's got enough arm to play either spot."
• In discussing how much preparation Iglesias will need before he's ready for the regular season, a reporter asked Ausmus how many at-bats he felt he needed each spring during his playing career.
"I was never ready for the season," Ausmus said, laughing. "You could make the argument that in September I still wasn't ready."
• Third baseman Nick Castellanos went 2-for-4 in Wednesday's 7-7 tie with the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field, bringing his Grapefruit League average to .400.
"He's been good. He's had good at-bats, as good as anyone in camp," Ausmus said. "And he looked solid at third today. There were a couple tough in-between hops that he played into bigger hops and made plays. Overall, he looked pretty good at third as well."
• Ausmus joked that he was "a little bit" jealous that Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged a play under the new instant replay rules Wednesday. Ausmus noted that the Yankees' replay was "very quick," but he didn't get a chance to use the new system himself.
"I'm not going to slow the game down for the sake of slowing the game down," Ausmus said. "There really wasn't an opportunity to use it."